Darren Tate: BY THE STREAM (Fungal) – REMAINS (Fungal) – STRANGE ARTIFACT (Fungal)

Besides being a mainstay of the Ora and Monos collectives, well known for various masterpieces in the domain of electronica / field recordings, York’s Darren Tate has released a sizeable body of work on his own Fungal label, including solo releases and collaborations with good friends including Colin Potter, Andrew Chalk and Paul Bradley. These come in ultra limited editions of 50 or 100 copies, so move quickly because most of them are real gems, and highly desirable objects in their own right thanks to Tate’s fine accompanying artwork, often incorporating real flowers, leaves and other organic materials.

Concentrate a little bit while listening to By The Stream and soon a resinoid liquid composed of hypnotic electro-loops (courtesy Colin Potter) will flood your mental space. The water flowing throughout the record’s course forms an environmental backdrop to unfathomable materializations of concrete instrumental embellishment – an acoustic guitar emits its lamentations for several minutes – and revisitations of blurred snapshots in a radioactive quasi-serenity. This is serious sound painting and its only drawback is its brevity, at about 36 minutes.

Remains was composed in 1985-86 and was remastered by Andrew Chalk in 2004. It’s a sort of an improvised study of the low range of a synthesizer mixed with distant noises such as motor engines (a Tate trademark) and what sounds like muffled firecrackers towards the end. With just these few elements, Tate sustains the interest over 56 minutes very proficiently; the droning lows come and go, sometimes a little louder to rouse us up from a dark crystal torpor of pacificatory glissandos. The music effectively levitates, pure without being empty-headed, imbued with a candour typical of its creator’s approach to art in general.

Only a guitar and a concertina were used along with the usual tape work on Strange Artifact, but don’t let the simple structure of these improvisations fool you: Tate carefully calibrates his timbres in a morass of shortwaves, alternating airy concertina fragments and detuned guitar, sometimes raising the background disturbance level to help him achieve an electroacoustic vibe while maintaining the in-the-moment freedom of unadulterated experimentation. Further confirmation that Darren Tate is one of the most open and sincere soundscapers, well above the legions of nonentities on a bandwagon that’s really become too easy to jump on.

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